Viacom Global Insights South Africa recently undertook to poll our online community with regards to the perception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the country. These findings were conducted via existing insight communities amongst 621 respondents.


South Africans aren’t sure about what AI is

While a majority of respondents said they understood what AI is (51%) subsequent answers suggest that there is still uncertainty around the concept and how it affects one’s daily life. For example, the same number of respondents indicated that they don’t rely on AI much (51%). At the same time, at least 44% of those polled say that they rely on AI often, particularly in the forms of digital assistants like Hey Google (71%) and Siri (15%).


There’s a thin line between fear and anticipation

While respondents were unclear about how AI impacts them, there are mixed feelings when it comes to how AI will develop in future. When asked how they feel about the progress of AI, 45% of the community said they were excited, while 44% said they were both excited and scared. Age has an impact on the way AI is perceived, with more of the youth (aged between 18-24) being excited about AI integration at school and work (77%) than those over 45 years of age (65%).


The pros and cons across industries are similar

While the majority of South Africans appear to be excited about the integration of AI into society, there are still concerns around the impact it will have on work and school, with most respondents believing the manufacturing industry will be hardest hit by digitisation (47%), followed by finance and entertainment, both at 17%. The primary fears of those polled are that AI will take away jobs, make people lazy, replace humans and may develop a mind of its own.


But there are upsides as well

At the same time, 73% of South African’s polled believe that integrating AI into society is a good thing. Those who are excited about the development of AI often cite increased human productivity, the elimination of errors and improvement of processes as reasons to look forward to the development of AI.


It’s clear that the South African public has mixed feelings when it comes to the increasing penetration of AI at school, work, in industry and across everyday life. However, it would seem that with greater understanding of what AI is, and the impact it can have, there may be increased acceptance of the convenience automation will bring to everyday tasks.